by Debra Montandon
Struggle with dyslexia adds to difficulty of education
It is not easy to open up about one’s weakness.
But throughout my life, I struggled academically. Many of my instructors through the years may not have come right out and said I was dumb, but they treated me in a way that I felt a lot less knowledgeable. I do recall one teacher in elementary school who encouraged me when I felt less capable than everyone else.
Years ago, schools didn’t make a big deal about students with dyslexia. I am not even sure they knew what it was. I just knew I did not like reading at all.
About six years ago, a dear friend, Jan, said to me, “Debra, I think you are dyslexic.” I said, “I don’t read backwards.” She laughed and said, “There are a lot of different ways you can be dyslexic.” So the school where I was employed as a bus driver and substitute teacher offered to test me at their expense. I wanted to go back to college, but I needed to know why I do or don’t do a lot of things.
When I was taking the test, I was so embarrassed because I knew I could not do a lot of what she asked me to do. The counselor was so kind all the way through, though. She had never done a test on an adult.
So as I was taking the test, I was fighting back tears. I am so thankful to God that I did the test now, because it answers a lot of questions that I have wondered about all my life. I learned so much about myself through that one testing period. It helped me see who I really am. I learned that I am not dumb.
When she finished my testing, she said, “Debra, I cannot tell you that you are until I run the numbers, but I know how nervous you are, and I’m sure you are dyslexic.” I started crying. She said, “You have thought you were dumb your whole life?” I nodded my head. She said, “Debra, I don’t ever tell people the results from the test, but you need to know this…You are highly intelligent.”
I looked at her with some confusion. She turned the paper around and it had lines drawn through words I did not see or read. She said, “Debra, I see this all the time. What I don’t see is this: while you were reading, you missed these words. What I never see, is that your brain moved so fast that you put synonyms in there to make the sentence grammatically correct. I cannot teach someone to do this. You taught yourself. I understand you want to go back to college. You will struggle. But do not give up, and you will make it.”
Then she said, “Debra I know you have felt like you were dumb or people made you feel that way…You are far from dumb.” As I was leaving her office, I cried because of how many people in my life made it clear that they were smart and I was not. I was also told many times, “You dropped out of college!”
I do not have the words to express how grateful I am to finally know why I struggle. I just hope and pray that I can persevere to the end and acquire a college degree, to be an encourager for others in the future.
When I compare my years of going to school, they did not know what to do with students who struggled compared to now. They start earlier testing and working with students when they are a lot younger to help them. I am grateful that it is not like it was when I was in school.
Not only can schools catch this problem earlier, there are resources available that can help parents get an early diagnosis.
Knowing about my dyslexia, even later in life, has made me stronger, and has reassured me that I can do the things people in the past said I couldn’t.